“Social auditing is not blaming or showing what is going wrong, it’s about improving the government services provided” (Timorese civil society representative).
Since Timor-Leste succeeded in its long and violent struggle for Independence from Indonesia in 2002, it has faced a long and difficult road to reconstruction. A strong and positive relationship between the state and the society is essential in rebuilding a state. In the face of many indicators that this relationship has become distant and fractured, a space has opened up for citizens to become active players in national development, through social auditing.
Prime Minster Dr. Rui Maria de Araujo announced in February 2015 that he would establish a unit for social auditing within his Office to support communities, through civil society organisations, to monitor and provide constructive feedback on government programs, projects and services. It would also work with Ministries and government actors to support transparency and accountability.
In late 2016, The Asia Foundation and NGO Forum (the umbrella organisation for NGOs in Timor-Leste) launched a two-year program, with funding from the European Union, to improve government accountability through social auditing. The Institute for Sustainable Futures was contracted by The Asia Foundation and NGO Forum to work closely with NGO Forum (including its member organisations) and the Office of the Prime Minister to develop a handbook to support civil society organisations’ practice of social auditing. The handbook has built on the existing strengths and successes of civil society organisations, which have been working with communities to monitor the process of national development and advocate for improvements and reforms since Independence.
A successful training workshop facilitated by the Institute in Dili in March brought together civil society and government representatives to test and critique the handbook. These actors will work in collaboration to carry out effective social auditing in the lead up to the next Parliamentary elections taking place late in 2017, with a new appreciation of their challenges and their respective commitment to improving the lives of the Timorese people.